The Restorative Justice Program is a youth-based service of the Clay County Attorney's Office. The Restorative Justice Program offers an approach to crime that focuses on taking time to understand the victimization that occurred, holding the referred youth accountable for their actions through a “Circle” process, and developing an agreement for the youth to make things rights with the victim(s) and the community.
How Does It Work? Youth are referred to the Restorative Justice Program either as a diversion from the traditional court process, or as the disposition of a juvenile case. Referral agencies include:
- Clay County Attorney’s Office
- Clay County law enforcement agencies
- Clay County School Districts
- Minnesota Department of Corrections - Juvenile Probation
The Restorative Justice Program receives financial support from local and statewide grant sources, including the Clay County Collaborative and Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Office of Justice Programs - Youth Intervention Program. The program is also supported by the Clay County Board of Commissioners.
What Do We Mean by "Circle"?According to the Living Justice Press, Circles offer a different way of dealing with challenges and help us learn how to positively engage with one another.
- Circles build community
- Circles create a space for deep listening and being heard
- Circles generate mutual understanding and respect
- Circles honor all voices equally
- Circles make decisions by consensus
- Circles cultivate mutual support
- Circles honor the gifts, knowledge, talents and experiences that each participant brings
Participating in Circles is transformative, because it allows us to experience the world from different perspectives than our own. Drawing on diverse knowledge and experiences, Circles generate options and solutions that are often outside of conventional thinking and that often go beyond what one person could generate on their own. Taking time to sit down, listen to each other and express mutual care and concern is restorative.
The Restorative Justice Program provides benefits to the victim, the youth who has committed the crime and the community.
- Has the opportunity to tell the youth how the offense has impacted them
- Has input in creating a plan that focuses on repairing the harm
- Can ask the youth questions about the crime
- May gain a sense of closure
The Referred Youth:
- Has a voice in how to make things right, rather than just receiving a consequence
- Has an opportunity to offer an explanation and an apology
- Can see how their actions have affected others
- Can experience a reduction in long-term crime
- Can benefit from reduced animosity and tension among individuals and groups
- Can gain greater understanding and empathy of its youth and their experiences and struggles